ACT I Scene 1. Imogen, daughter of King Cymbeline of Britain, has angered father by marrying Posthumus. Cymbeline himself reared the orphaned Posthumus, his own two sons having been abducted in infancy. The wicked queen (whose son Cloten was Cymbeline's preferred match for Imogen) pretends kindness to the young couple. Before Posthumus leaves for exile in Rome, Imogen gives him a ring, receiving in return a bracelet.Scene 2. Cloten's attendants ridicule him.Scene 3. Pisanio, Posthumus' servant, tells Imogen of his master's departure.Scene 4. Posthumus meets Iachimo in Rome. When Posthumus extols Imogen's virtue, Iachimo wagers him ten thousand ducats to his diamond ring that he can persuade her to commit adultery. Posthumus accepts the wager. Scene 5. The doctor, Cornelius, is suspicious when the queen gathers poisonous plants. He reveals privately that what she believes to be a fatal poison is in fact a sleeping draught. The queen tries unsuccessfully to turn Pisanio against Posthumus and gives him the poison, claiming that it is a life-saving remedy. Pisanio spurns the queen, disbelieving her.Scene 6. Iachimo comes to see Imogen, bringing a letter of introduction from Posthumus. Realizing that he can only win the wager by resorting to subterfuge, he claims that Posthumus has been unfaithful, suggesting that she avenge herself by becoming his lover. When she reacts with revulsion, he assures her that he was merely testing her devotion. She then agrees to his request to leave a trunk of valuables in her chamber overnight for safekeeping.
ACT IIScene 1. Cloten wants to meet Iachimo. Scene 2. While Imogen sleeps, Iachimo creeps from the trunk. He carefully notes details of her chamber and person and then eases Posthumus's bracelet from her arm. Scene 3. When Cloten tries to woo Imogen she dismisses him impatiently. She asks Pisanio to find her missing bracelet.Scene 4. Iachimo uses his observations of Imogen, and her bracelet, to convince Posthumus that he has slept with her. Posthumus vows revenge.
ACT IIIScene 1. Cymbeline refuses to pay a tribute to Caesar, and Rome declares war on Britain. We learn that Cymbeline had fond associations with Rome and Caesar in his youth. Scene 2. Posthumus writes to Pisanio ordering to kill Imogen. Pisanio refuses to believe her unfaithful. In order to help Pisanio in his task, Posthumus tells Imogen to meet him at Milford Haven. Scene 3. Belarius, unjustly banished by Cymbeline, abducted his sons Guiderius and Arviragus, and lives with them in a remote Welsh cave. The young men, unaware of their provenance, are frustrated by their isolated life.Scene 4. As Imogen and Pisanio approach Milford he shows her Posthumus' letter. She begs him "Do his bidding strike!" Pisanio convinces her that she should report her death to Posthumus; she meanwhile must dress as a man and seek the protection of Lucius, a noble Roman. Before they part, Pisanio gives Imogen the Queen's potion, as a remedy for sickness.Scene 5. Imogen is missing from the court. The Queen privately hopes that she is either dead or exiled and that "She being down,/I have the placing of the British crown." Believing Imogen well on her way to Rome, Pisanio tells Cloten that she has gone to Milford and gives him a suit of Posthumus' clothes. Cloten plots his revenge, intending to kill Posthumus and ravish Imogen. Scene 6. When Imogen arrives exhausted at Belarius's cave, she is welcomed with food and shelter. She calls herself Fidele.Scene 7. Romans discuss the war with Britain (War conference).
ACT IVScene 1. Cloten draws near to Milford, gloating about the horrible punishments he will deal out.Scene 2. Pleading sickness, Imogen remains in the cave whilst her hosts go...